One of those blind-spot whiskies because I generally don’t care about the distillery’s output. This one wasn’t that bad at all, but because of my limited knowledge, I never even really considered Fettercairn.
I randomly guessed BenRiach, because it was a bit of a strange profile and BenRiach is not the most consistent of distilleries. Especially when looking at the independent bottlings out there.
Sniff: Initially I thought it was sherry, but upon nosing it a little bit I’m confused. I’m thinking more in line of a port cask now. Very strange. Black cherries, dried plums, wet casks.
Sip: The palate starts off rather gentle compared to the earlier two of the evening. It’s not as fruity as I expected, although there is a slight note of cherry and plum. Rancio, wet casks, quite a bit of old oak. Still not sure about the cask type.
Swallow: The finish is still rich and heavy, with a bit more bite than I expected. Still, not a lot of heat though. Again, very rich and heavy, some cherry and plum notes.
I’m sticking with sherry. Not 100% sure either way, but it’s not a very confident port cask either. Not very tawny-red fruit forward, so to say.
The fortified wine is pushed forward quite a bit. And in combination with the spirit it makes for a bit of a weird flavor profile. As I said, not a very clear sherry cask at all (to me). But, on the other hand, a rather tasty Fettercairn, and that’s not a regular thing either!
On the second of the Blind Tasting Competition, we went to Islay. That much was pretty clear from the first sniff. I also figured out we went to the south of Islay. It could have been Bunnahabhain, but I didn’t recognize this as Caol Ila, Bowmore, Bruichladdich or Kilchoman. Laphroaig seemed a stretch too.
It turned out to be Lagavulin, but my guess went to Ardbeg. There was a certain ashy flavor that I don’t know from Lagavulin. Also, with the always lauded 12 year old, I liked to have tasted this blind without any preconception of what it could be.
It did decrease my score for what I would expect to rate this at. As in, generally the Lagavulin 12 is considered an 88 to 90 point whisky, but in this blind tasting, it didn’t quite get there.
Sniff: A heavy kind of peat smoke, with more peaty notes than crisp smoke. Floral and grassy too, with straw, dried flowers and hay. Soil, peat, dried lemon.
Sip: Ah yes, the peat is very much at the fore-front here too. Quite a peppery dram, in a very punchy way. Little oaky notes, but there is some bitterness, and lots of grass and straw. I would not be surprised if this is a virgin oak cask, even though it’s not overly oaky. It does have that sharpness that sometimes (often?) comes with the territory.
Swallow: The finish only lingers in the front of your mouth and barely touches your throat. Brine, rocks and slightly mineral like, with peppery heat and lots of peat.
I liked the ashy bit, it makes for a very typical dram. I do feel it’s not as complex as I like whiskies to be, especially whiskies that set you back significantly more than € 100…
Best of Wines started their sample kit with this rather well aged Mannochmore for which virtually no-one scored a lot of points. I scored a whopping 0 out of a 100, mostly because I am utter trash at blind tasting competitions, and this is a left field whisky if there ever was one!
Sniff: Rather old fashioned on the nose, with hints of gentle sherry. Oak, hessian and a whiff of cardboard. Wet soil, a bit of funk, dark chocolate, hazelnuts. Some oranges in the back.
Sip: Very dry and rather sharp. Hessian, cardboard, white pepper, and sawdust. A hint of vanilla with some chocolate and orange pith. There’s a bitter edge to it, but in a good way. I think I’m getting some coastal notes of salinity too.
Swallow: It stays old fashioned throughout, but the finish focuses on those slightly funky notes a bit more. Old barley, sawdust and dunnage warehouses. Orange pith, white pepper, a bit of sherry fruitiness too.
I really love this dram and I regret it only came in a 2cl sample. I still am not sure whether this should be an 89 or 90 pointer in my book. There is a lot of complexity to peel back and get to all the different layers of flavor.
Gorgeous stuff and quite regularly available still! Lately, as in, the last couple of years, I think G&M is on a roll with their Connoisseur’s Choice bottlings. There have been many semi-affordable gems from this range!
Sometimes Tom van Engelen sends me reviews for publication on MaltFascination. Sometimes I forget. So now I have a backlog of a few that I’m trying to get through before the end of the year.
Young Port Ellen has become quite rare, until the long closed distillery opens again of course. But will it ever be like this again, in 16 years? Let’s go back to the 1980s, when this beauty was casked in a quite pleasantly inactive cask, by the light looks of it.
Sniff: A lot of minerals and chalk, dry pebbles beaten by long summer sun. Truly dusty, like discovering a Todd McFarlane drawn Batman comic in the attic. Smoky vanilla in the background. With water more medicinal. Quite a classic Islay whisky. After a while a whiff of grass. Good swimmer, and all about malt spirit, only the subtlest wood influence.
Sip: Neat, quite compact, a little salty … and then the hot alcohol covers it all. Very dry. Time for a few drops of water. The liquid shows a slight green haze in the glass, interesting. The taste is “darker” now, high percentage cacao chocolate. The peat dominates with elegance.
Swallow: Old school peat, warm and lingering. So incredibly naked and vulnerable. Water makes it a more oily exit but leaves a farewell note that lingers for ages.
Port Ellen at this age is at a turning point, which older expressions underline indeed, on a road to a sweeter character. This is reminiscent of young and naked Ardbegs from the 1993 vintages. Worth looking out for.
I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.
During the first Advent period of the lockdowns, back in 2020, my good friend JPH and I decided we wanted to try some awesome whiskies. Online, of course, so we had to get our hands on two sets of samples.
Just before Brexit a massive box came in, with 48 samples of random whiskies that weren’t labeled, just numbered. We did have the Excel sheet explaining what was what, but we tried everything blind.
Plans were made for this year, and we decided to do these sample things more often, and in smaller batches. A quarterly advent, so to say. Earlier this year we had a pack of samples from Whisky4All, sometimes we just tried something we already had and shared, and now we’re working our way to this year’s Blind Tasting Competition, while also having a pack of samples from Teun van Wel.
This Lochside is one from Teun, from his massive (but diminishing) stash of Lochside 1981 bottlings.
Sniff: Insanely fruity, with lots of fresh yellow stuff. Pineapple, apple, dragon fruit, wild peach, white grapes and an unripe mango. There’s a sharpness behind it that belies its complexity, with a slight hint of straw. Grass and clover too, a freshly cut lawn.
Sip: There’s a bit of a peppery bite, with fresh grain and a bit of oak. Still massively fruity but a bit more sweet than the nose was. More like mango, papaya, cooked apple and a bit of banana. Oak shavings, dry straw, dried wild flowers.
Swallow: The finish leaves the sweetness behind right away. The hint of white pepper and some alcohol. Straw, grass, fresh yellow fruits like unripe pears and crisp apples. Some wild peaches too.
While it’s not as stellar as one of the best whiskies I tried last year, also from Teun, this is still proof that Lochside 1981 is epic whisky. Massively fruity, layered and complex. I really wish I spent more money on this kind of stuff back in the day, instead of all the random stuff I did buy.
Now if I only learned anything from thoughts like that.
A little while ago Michiel Wigman sent over a couple of samples of his latest bottlings, and in that package were these two samples of Dutch Genever. Myriam Hendrickx, the distillery manager at Rutte Distillery created these two different Genevers especially for Michiel, and even though Covid got in the way of a more timely release, this year finally saw them available.
Both are released at a cask strength of 52% and are made with different botanicals, to create two very different experiences. Both Genevers are 14 years old, but aging works a little different for this distillate.
The 14 years old is shown on the label, but there are grain spirits in each bottle that are significantly younger. Apart from the grain spirits Genever is infused with botanicals and this makes it different again, and gives a lot more room to get desired flavors in a spirit by macerating fruits, herbs, spices and sometimes other things (there are gins with lobster, and gin is rather closely related to genever).
I have to admit that I have very little experience with Genever, apart from a random sample I tried from Zuidam years ago, I never really experiment with the drink. But, let’s just dive in!
Rutte Cask Strength Old Dutch Genever, 52% – Michiel Wigman
This is the bottling with lemon, cardemom and cassis.
Sniff: On top of the to-be-expected juniper, which isn’t overly prominent, there’s quite a lot of lemon. The cassis is there after a minute or two. Slightly spicy, but not with heat.
Sip: The palate is less fruity, and more spicy. Some red chilis, juniper and a whiff of lemon.
Swallow: The finish sits in the middle, a bit more fruity again. Less lemon, more cassis.
There’s juniper everywhere, but the waxing and waning of fruitiness happens inversed from the spices. So when there’s a lot of juniper, there’s not that much other fruit to be found, but a second later that’s completely flipped. A very interesting drink.
Rutte Cask Strength Old Dutch Genever, 52% – Michiel Wigman
This is the other bottling, with fenugreek, carob and juniper extract.
Sniff: Interestingly, I have no idea what carob would smell or taste like. But, knowing fenugreek and juniper, it must be ‘that other thing’. It adds a bit of a rich backdrop but doesn’t overpower the fenugreek. I guess fenugreek is hard to overpower. With juniper extract being mentioned specifically, it must be added more than normal, but I’m not getting that.
Sip: The palate, again, is a bit more spicy than the nose. The chilli heat is held in check by the carob, which adds a bit of a cocoa like richness. It reminds me of some thick tonka bean stouts. It’s a bit coarse, with an almost powdery texture.
Swallow: The finish is a bit of a weird mix between light and crisp juniper, some fenugreek bite and that cocoa richness of the carob
I have never consciously had carob before, ever. But as said, it must be that flavor that is rather prominent, but not dominant. And interesting combination of sensations is happening and the first thing that this reminded me of (on the palate, that is) is Lervig’s Three Bean Stout, which must be the richness of the carob as well.
So, I won’t be giving these an actual score. I’m too blue to rate them, especially in a category of their own. Compared to Michiel’s whisky releases, I must say that I am much more a whisky fanatic than I am a genever enthusiast, and I do not think that’s going to change anytime soon.
Still, it was a very interesting experience to try these samples and I’m glad someone with Michiel’s reputation is creating an entrypoint into other spirits than you’d normally encounter. Kudos for that!
Yet another undisclosed distillery. It is almost like that is a thing nowadays. This time it’s a Speyside one, just like yesterday. However, according to retailers, Whiskybase and most likely other sources of information, this is a bottling from Glenlivet.
Quite and old one at that, being bottled before the year 2000. Of course, I still don’t really think of that as old, since it was a single digit age statement when I started drinking whisky, and I can’t really come to grips with how old I have gotten since.
Anyway, old Speyside whisky from Glenlivet. I don’t taste all that much Glenlivet, so I went in without many expectations.
Sniff: Sponge cake with a whiff of lemon and quite some honey and vanilla. After a little while it becomes more fruity, with more lemon, apples and pears. It’s a very fruity dram indeed!
Sip: The palate is warming with a nice tingling sensation. It’s not as dry as the nose was, but there still is a note of honey and fruit. Candied lemon, baked apple and pear. A minor note of iron, which isn’t too strange with the apple. Heather, oak, vanilla, some pastry notes too.
Swallow: The finish is not overly long and focuses slightly more on the dry notes of heather, wood and apples. The sweetness is rather diminished.
While I like that the sweetness goes down a bit towards the end, it does take some of the fruity notes with it as well. It’s a very middle of the road whisky, as you’d expect from Glenlivet, but one that is well executed.
So, even though it’s not mentioned anywhere on the bottle, it’s pretty common knowledge that this is a Macallan. Or at least, that’s what everyone thinks and how it is marketed. Last year I went to pick up some stuff at Slijterij Vonk and there was an in-store tasting happening of some new bottlings, which made me linger a little bit. Of course, if I start lingering around booze, some of it is bound to come home with me. This one was the one.
It’s quite a rare thing to try Macallan nowadays. All of the good ones are insanely expensive, and most of the affordable ones are less than impressive. That was the situation when I last tried them.
The marketing vortex around the brand doesn’t help either. Spending decades educating that sherry casks and Golden Promise barley is the way to go, only to change gears and release triple cask stuff, from different strains of barley and from bourbon casks. The same with ‘age matters’ until they ran out of old stuff, and now virtually everything is a NAS bottling.
I don’t even mind people changing their view, but to aggressively market polar opposite viewpoints back-to-back is a bit of a stretch.
Anyway, a Macallan, with an age statement. Let’s see what happens!
Sniff: Even though it smells like it was drawn from American Oak, there’s an old fashioned style going on. The rich and big sherry that is a thing with old Strathislas and Glen Grants. Of course, it doesn’t have the age those whiskies have, but the style is there. Dried peaches and apricots. There’s a walnut and pickle scent in the background too.
Sip: Because of the slightly elevated ABV there is a bit of a peppery bite to the first sip. It’s not overly sweet although it does bring some funky sherry notes, and some dried peaches and apricots. A drying palate, with a minor hint of vanilla towards the background. Mulch and forest floor, some compost even.
Swallow: The finish continues down the same line, except it is a little bit more sweet than the palate was. Still it focuses on dried fruits, sherry and oak.
The walnut and pickle is a rather unique thing that I generally associate with Macallan, ever since an SMWS bottling (still in Dutch) from years ago. I wasn’t overly enthused by it back then, but have come to appreciate that weird sherry influence that Macallan sometimes has. In short, this is quite a lovely dram, especially for the € 60-ish it went for last year!
The Precious Moments series is one of many series that Michiel Wigman has running at the moment. At least, if some things turn out to be series. Anyway, ‘Precious Moments’ is and after last year’s (yet to be reviewed) Caroni, there now is a French Brandy.
Technically this would classify as a Cognac, except for the fact that it matured in England for a while and that disqualifies it from that category. So, French Brandy it is.
Initially I was a bit shocked by the € 235 price tag for something that is not a Cognac, simply assuming it was some kind of a random find from a distillery in France not in a region that classifies as something. But, with the situation around the name cleared up, it makes a lot more sense.
After tasting it, it made even more sense…
Sniff: A very rich and gentle nose with a typical Cognac/Armagnac fruitiness, but with a hint of peppermint in the background. Lots of wood, a some copper. Wild peach liqueur, lychees, banana.
Sip: The palate brings a bit of a peppery bite, with white and black pepper. Wild peaches, without the liqueur bit now. Other light tropical fruits like that, like lychees. Like on the nose, a bit of a banana-like sweetness.
Swallow: The finish continues down the same line. I feel like there’s some other fruit in this mix, than just grapes. There’s a very different sweetness to it than I’m used to. The note of copper is back too.
I don’t feel like I’m doing this justice, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. Much better than many much older brandies. When trying this I wasn’t aware of the Cognac categorization and that sent me in the wrong direction. However, in the end it’s a very interesting things that defies most typical categories.
It’s a more rich and complex than I’m used to from regularly available Cognacs. It’s also far more elegant and gentle than most Armagnacs. It is way more in line with the current wave of single cask Cognacs that have been coming out for the last couple of years, which makes sense because this is one too.
The light fruitiness, the layered richness with more crisp hints to keep it from becoming too heavy, it all works. This is a very, very good drink indeed!
Skara Brae automatically involved the islands of Orkney, even if it wasn’t mentioned on the label. It’s the 4000 year old settlement uncovered on the ‘mainland’ of Orkney.
And with this being an undisclosed Orkney whisky, we can safely state that this is a Highland Park, as are (unofficially) all the others. A friend of mine picked up this bottle when it was discounted recently, and shared some samples of it. With me being a bit of a Highland Park fanatic, I picked one up and tried it.
Even if it is just to find out how it compares to the other recent ones that I’ve been trying (here, here and here). I rated those very highly, so apart from being a fan of the style, the bar is pretty high too.
Sniff: Slightly on the sweet side with hints of vanilla and pastry. A whiff of smoke and straw. Marram grass and a bit of a briny coastal note. Some apples, pears and white grapes. Roasty oak and porridge too.
Sip: The palate is surprisingly strong and spicy. There’s a lot of chili heat with other flavors pushed to the background. Straw and oak shavings after that. Apples, unripe pears, a bit of a grape seed bitterness. Coastal salinity too, very briny.
Swallow: The finish holds the middle between the palate and the nose. There’s some peppery sharpness but the pastry like sweetness of the nose is present too.
Decent stuff, but compared to the other recent Secret Orkneys, this is rather boring. It shows the things I like so much about the other ones, but very marginally. There’s just a bit too much sweetness and it somehow tastes a bit hot compared to the others.